Today I made what I considered a great first step – I met directly with people in the industry and starting asking questions. There is no better way to get into a new industry than doing just this. Not only was I able to get a better handle on truly next steps (not vague suggestions for things way down the line) and ask questions directly to people who live this, but I was able to get closer to a few well-connected individuals in gaming, show them I intend to be serious and respect them as colleagues and hopefully in time as friends, and eventually recruit their help (if they feel it is appropriate) as I improve. Some of things I learn and pass on to readers (if I have any yet…)
1) Never Be Afraid To Ask.
This started out with my telling one friend and colleague of mine (David Weekly – Thank you!) about my desire to learn more about the field of game design. He introduced me to a Mr. Russ Fan (among other wonderful people.) Now, Russ’ initial reply to the introduction was a bit brusque (he knows this, I called him on it later), but I still followed up regardless of the tone I thought I read, just in case. Low and behold, he was just having a rough day and was incredibly kind in his next reply. He singlehandedly gathered almost a dozen young and helpful people in game design/production during a day at GDC and recruited them to meet me for tea this afternoon. This leads to a sub-lesson:
1.5) Spend Money.
If people are offering you their time – regardless of whether they end up being helpful or not – buy them something. This can be as small as a cheap cup of coffee, or as large as lunch (though I suggest you save this for people you know 100% will be helpful). It is a small gesture, but I always appreciate it when people do it for me.
From my tea meeting, I also was told two incredibly helpful first steps, that other people I have since talked with have told me:
2) Start A Blog.
Me Typing on a Laptop
When they first told me this, I immediately said “But the point of these meetings is because I don’t know anything right now.”
But everyone has something to say; if you don’t, then maybe you aren’t really fit to tell stories or be in an especially communicative career (not a bad thing, just something to note regarding yourself.)
And so I thought about it, and realized I am doing something that I personally know a handful of people would like to do – not just go into video games, but more generally restart their careers. But many of them do not out of fear, or more often, a lack of understanding of where to start. So maybe this blog can help. I know it is starting off pretty unfocussed and personal, but as I write I’m confident the entries will get more to the point, easier to read, and filled with more lessons.
3) Design a Game.
Start with a deck of cards - Simple, Cheap, & Handy
And of course, when I first heard this, I immediate replied “But I can’t code!” (Notice I have an excuse NOT to do all of their suggestions – an even more important lesson: don’t make excuses for yourself!). They then pulled out a deck of cards and said “Start here. Make a card game. Or use any playing board and pieces and make something new.” Brilliant! This will teach me the general practice of how to think creatively around games, of how to test them with friends and incorporate ideas and advice. Mind you, it’s still pretty daunting, but I’m at least starting to think about it while I ride buses or play board games – how can I make this better.
More important than any specific lessons I learned from these incredible folk was the inspiration they gave me. Take time and meet with people to keep yourself inspired. And as mentioned above, catch yourself whenever you find an excuse not to do something and ask yourself or others how you can overcome that excuse.